Public Forum Law Week in Review: 8/28/08

Images11Open Government

City to Post Candidate Finances on Web
San Luis Obispo.com reports that, hoping to build public trust and improve the election campaign process, Atascadero is the first local city to post state-mandated donation and financial declarations online.

Bill Would Make Judge Vetting More Public
California Chronicle.com reports that the Legislature has passed and sent to the Governor AB 2095 
by Assemblyman Mike Davis (D-Los Angeles), which would require
governors to disclose the names of individuals who assist them in
choosing judges—a list of advisors that up to now has been kept secret.

Public Information

Court: Some Legislative Secrecy Lawful
The Metropolitan News-Enterprise in Los Angeles reports that the California Court of Appeal has upheld a trial court ruling that the Legislature did not violate the Legislative Open Records Act by refusing to disclose various documents, including e-mails pertaining to the decision to require that all work on a project designed to enhance Capitol security by controlling access to the building and grounds be done under union contract. 

District Mum on Probe of Sidelined Manager
The Palm Springs Desert Sun reports that officials with the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District have known for about a month whether an investigator found evidence of misconduct by the agency’s general manager, who remains in his sixth month on paid administrative leave; this week, district officials refused to make public the investigation's results.

Constituent Contact Information Withheld
The San Francisco Bay Guardian reports that the Clerk of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has quietly begun redacting contact information—including phone numbers, street addresses, and e-mail addresses—from all communications sent to the supervisors by members of the public.

Paper Decides to Keep Names off Pay Lists
The editor of the Marysville daily Appeal-Democrat says that after considerable outcry from those affected he has decided to leave the names of rank-and-file employees off a database of local government salaries to be placed on the newspaper’s website.

State Bar Responds to Suit for Exam Data
The Metropolitan News-Enterprise in Los Angeles reports that the State Bar of California is arguing in papers filed with the California Supreme Court that personal and academic information about bar examination applicants cannot be released to a UCLA researcher, even if stripped of their identities.

Public Records Disclosed Reveal . . . 

  • that Chula Vista's highest ranking executive has been reprimanded for his computer usage and asked not to retaliate against employees who reported his looking at “inappropriate images” while at work, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
  • that federal investigators have requested Oakland city records in a probe apparently centering on allegations of City Hall nepotism and fraud under the recently fired city administrator, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Free Speech

Court Rejects Mall’s Limits on Union Picketing
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a federal appeals court has ruled that California shopping malls can't prohibit union members from carrying picket signs, standing on sidewalks or picketing during the peak holiday season.

LAPD Rousts Park Petitioners: Where’s ACLU?
Walter Moore, Blogging on City Watch LA.com, asks where the ACLU is in the wake of an August 17 police raid on signature gatherers for a proposed “Jamiel’s Law” in a public park, denying their right to be there and telling them they would have to approach people door to door instead.

City Blocks Staff’s Access to ‘Political’ Blogs
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Vallejo's city manager has barred city employees from reading two local blogs that focus on the city's descent into bankruptcy, adding the Vallejo Times Herald's local news blog and the Vallejo Is Burning website to the list of Internet addresses employees cannot access from city computers.  The Times Herald reports that a third site has also been blocked and that the city manager has stopped denying that the decision was his.

Watchdogs: Political Speech Needs ISP Respect
The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that it and the ACLU of Northern California are urging Internet service providers to take extra precautions before pulling the plug on political speech by their customer websites in response to complaints or controversy. They also ask owners of copied content to “count to ten” and look at the fair use principles in copyright law for some guidance before firing off a complaint.

Judge: Fair Use an Issue in Takedown Demands
Wired.com reports that, in the nation's first such ruling, a federal judge has said copyright owners must consider "fair use" of their works before sending takedown notices to online video-sharing sites. The doctrine permits limited use of copyright materials without the owner's permission.

Pact: Laborers Can Seek Work from Curbside
The Associated Press reports that a settlement between day laborers and the Orange County sheriff's office calls for authorities to acknowledge workers' rights to stand on sidewalks and seek work without being harrassed, according to attorneys for the laborers.

Some Internet Firms Wary of Challenging China
The Financial Times of London reports that although the board of directors of the California First Amendment Coalition includes Google’s associate general counsel and the vice-president and editor in chief of Yahoo News, the organization’s effort to have China’s Internet censorship declared a violation of international trade law has not won uniform industry support.

Free Press

Photographer Sues after Detention by Police
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that an Oakland Tribune photographer has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Oakland, saying police illegally barred him from taking pictures at a freeway crash scene and handcuffed him when he persisted.

Publishers Protect Journalists in Researcher Bill
The California Newspaper Publishers Association reports that it has obtained an amendment to the latest version of AB 2296—a measure to protect animal and other academic researchers from threats or acts of terrorism—that would prevent a researcher from seeking an injunction against anyone employed or contracted as a journalist for a newspaper, broadcaster or news service. The amendment, CNPA says, is intended to safeguard newspapers and journalists from potentially frivolous litigation associated with stories about animal research.

Google Says Property Incursions No Trespass
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports that, in a sweeping legal claim, Google recently stated it has the right to enter private roads and driveways to take photographs of people and their property, and then publish the images online for their “Street Views.”  Some media lawyers are not so sure.

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